City eyeing grant to market water

By Tom Joyce -

Mount Airy is poised to apply for a grant, which — if successful — will help the municipality market its huge water surplus to outside parties.

A pre-application for that purpose was submitted last July to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), a federal-state partnership. It works with the people of Appalachia, a 13-state region including North Carolina, to create opportunities for self-sustaining progress in areas such as economic development and critical infrastructure.

The pre-application for the Mount Airy water project targeted the Emerging Opportunities Program of the ARC.

It led to city staff members being invited to submit a full application for the project, which is due by Feb. 25. The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners is expected to authorize that move during a meeting Thursday which begins at 7 p.m.

If successful, the Appalachian commission will pay $20,000 toward the total project cost, with the city government being responsible for $8,580.

The scope of work that would be funded includes assembling a development team to facilitate the water-marketing effort under a 15-month completion timeline.

Plans call for this to involve a multi-faceted approach for promoting Mount Airy’s abundance of water, according to Catrina Alexander, city parks and recreation director, who is involved with the grant effort.

That would entail the production of a short, high-quality video highlighting the municipality’s water quality, geographic location and reasons why Mount Airy is highly desirable for water customers to develop and grow businesses, according to information from Alexander.

The marketing campaign also is to include companion promotional materials, branding activities and outreach to suitable industries.

Mount Airy has a large surplus of water due to the closure in recent years of major textile industries that were heavy users due to dyeing and other operations.

In 2015, it was reported that the city had a capacity to produce about 8 million gallons per day, but was selling only around 2 million — well below 50 percent of its capability.

Mount Airy now sells its water to outside customers on a limited basis, including the town of Dobson and southern Carroll County, Virginia.

Rezoning hearing

In another matter during Thursday night’s city commissioners meeting, a public hearing will be held on a rezoning request.

It affects property owned by a local veterinarian on Reeves Drive off U.S. 601.

Dr. Mark Hauser, of Surry Animal Hospital at 926 Reeves Drive, has applied to have the zoning for a neighboring site at 920 Reeves Drive changed from its present R-6 (General Residential) classification to B-2 (General Business).

A single-family dwelling now occupies the property in question, but is targeted for demolition.

City Planning Director Andy Goodall has said that Hauser might expand the parking area from his existing veterinary building, if he someday puts on an addition that would eliminate part of the present parking lot. However, there are no firm plans at present for the property should the rezoning be approved, Goodall added in January.

No one spoke in opposition to the proposed rezoning when it recently was considered by the Mount Airy Planning Board, an advisory group to the commissioners which voted 5-0 to recommend that they approve the zoning change.

After the public hearing, the commissioners are scheduled to vote on the rezoning later Thursday night.

Other business

Among other agenda items for the commissioners meeting are:

• The consideration of a resolution formally requesting that the Surry County government transfer to the city government property in northern Mount Airy known as Graham Field. It is a recreational site on Jones School Road, which the municipality has been leasing since 2007 under a 10-year agreement. With the move, Mount Airy would continue to maintain Graham Field and use it for public recreation purposes.

• A discussion on a possible grant application to the State Historic Preservation Office, which would fund an update of a city architectural survey as part of ongoing preservation efforts locally. The last survey occurred in 1985.

The total cost of the project, which would include updating files on properties both inside and outside the City of Mount Airy National Register Historic District, could be $30,000. Under a match requirement, the municipality would provide about $12,000 of that.

• An update by Karen Eberdt, coordinator of Project Lazarus-Surry, an organization that has been working since 2011 to combat abuse and misuse of prescription medication and overdose deaths.

• A discussion on minimum standards for commercial buildings in Mount Airy, requested by Commissioner Steve Yokeley.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

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